Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Night Musings

I am staying at the home of some friends currently - Marty and Christopher who got married in Canada on July 7th (see my post on that date) - and they are out at a concert that they previously bought tickets for (Gosh Groban). So it's me and the dogs and cat - literally. I will probably read a book and/or watch Logo later depending on what's on. I am just about finished with "Man About Town" and, if I finish that, I will probably start re-reading Mary Renault's book "Last of the Wine," first published in 1956, which definitely ranks among my favorite books of all time.
Set in Classical Period Athens during the Peloponnesian War, it follows the lives of two lovers, Alexias and Lysis, who interact with figures such as Socrates. I have read it many times, and I find it a wonderful guide when I am troubled and looking for an ideal to follow.

During one of Socrates' discourses in the book, Socrates discusses the attributes of the perfect lover and what it should cost one to have such a lover that is truly inspirational. Here's a brief synopsis of the book:

Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine is about honor, duty, the horrors of war and its human cost, and the smallness and greatness of men. It is the memoir of Alexias, son of Myron, through his childhood and youth during the Peloponnesian War. He is a young aristocrat from a fairly conservative family at a time of great social and political change: Athens is falling from empire into ruin while democrats and oligarchs struggle for control of the city and many enemies circle for the kill. It is the time of Sokrates, Alkibiades, Euripides, the infamous Kritias, all of whom appear as characters. It is also an amazingly clear-eyed and tender love story.

Alexias searches for the true and the beautiful and his affair with Lysis, who also part of Sokrates' circle, is a beautifully rendered example. They are, in a sense, blessed because the love they share is genuine and deep. However, in trying to live up to Sokrates' ideal of a love from the soul, they forget that Eros will have his due. Thus, they must, somehow, make accommodation between their ideals and their natures and, when they have done that, their love becomes truly an ideal: a love founded on trust and generosity, engaging them on a mutual search for the best in each other and in themselves, to find the seeds of honesty and integrity that we all have and to make them flower.

One line that I try to remember and apply is when Socrates tells Alexias to "be what you would seem to be." I rarely meet that standard, but I do my best to be and act as I would like to seem - i.e., be genuine, open and honestly.

Mary Challans (1905-83), using the pseudonym Mary Renault, wrote eight novels about ancient Greece, including a trilogy about Alexander the Great. I have read all her books and recommend them highly.

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